Rafael Nadal bids to become king of New York again but Kevin Anderson eyes upset

10 September 2017 10:54

Winning the US Open would be the icing on the cake of an incredible season for Rafael Nadal.

Twelve months ago the Spaniard was struggling with wrist problems and had gone more than two years without a grand slam title.

Now he is the hot favourite to beat Kevin Anderson on Sunday and win multiple slams in a season for only the second time since 2010.

Nadal has not been as dominant in New York as he was at the French Open, which he won for the 10th time and without dropping a set, but the world number one has played himself into sparkling form.

In the semi-finals against Juan Martin del Potro, he recovered from losing the first set to batter his weary opponent, dropping just five games in the next three sets.

Nadal, the US Open champion in 2010 and 2013, said: "For me, what is more important, more than winning slams, is to be happy. I am happy if I am healthy, and happy if I feel competitive in most of the weeks that I am playing, and that's what happened this year.

"So I am very happy about what happened, very happy to win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Roland Garros. I am very happy to be in the final here in the US Open.

"Of course winning or losing that final is a big change, but I am very happy about all the things that happened to me and I am going to fight to win another title here."

Nadal appeared to be in the much tougher half of the draw but has made it through to the final without facing a top-25 player and now finds 32nd-ranked Anderson standing in his way.

The 6ft 8in South African was the man to take advantage of the wide open bottom half, beating American hope Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals and then 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the last four.

Nadal and Anderson are both 31 - their birthdays separated by less than a month - and they have known each other for nearly 20 years.

Their paths since juniors have been very different, of course, Nadal winning his first slam title as a teenager and looking to add a 16th here.

For Anderson, a first grand slam final is an unexpected reward for a career-long commitment to squeezing the best out of himself.

Nadal has won all four of their previous meetings, Anderson managing just a single set, but the Spaniard is wary of his opponent's aggressive game.

He said: "It's a very tough one. He's a huge player with an unbelievable serve and he plays so well on these kinds of surfaces.

"He had some injuries so he's a big example for the kids and for the rest of the tour, too. He was able to be back and play his best tennis now in his career so I'm happy for him because I've known him since we were 12 years old.

"It's great to see him in a final of one of the most important events of the year."

Like women's finalists Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, 2017 began with injury and uncertainty for Anderson and he missed the Australian Open with a hip problem.

He feared it might need surgery, probably ruling him out for the season, but that did not prove to the case and Anderson has climbed back from a low of 80 in the rankings in January.

He would make the top 10 with victory on Sunday but is well aware of the task in front of him, with Nadal only having lost in slam finals to Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.

Anderson said: " Nadal is, I think, one of the greatest competitors in sports, period. He's an amazing fighter. He really controls the court well, the few times I have played him.

"I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible, because if you let him do it, it's very difficult.

"I'm sure there will be different emotions than I have experienced when I walk out onto the court. But it will be very important for me as quickly as possible to really try, as much as I can, to block that out.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I have worked really hard to get here. It's great I have given myself a spot. I will be very excited come Sunday."

Source: PA